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|My auction adventure|
My wife let me go, but she told me I had to have a budget, a fixed amount that I could not surpass. My father-in-law gave me the heads up about an estate auction that was happening in his neck of the woods in NW Ontario. The deceased was an auctioneer himself, and had an extensive collection of tractors and farm implements up for grabs. All tolled, there were over 50 machines, and 30 of them were running. We have a small Case VA, and were looking for something with more power to do some discing, haying, and maybe even some woodlot management. I had my eye of several tractors, but as this fellow was a collector, I was concerned that most of these machines were more appropriate for shiny showrooms and parades instead the humble plans that I had. Also, I wondered how easily parts would be found on a budget for 2 cylinder Deeres, old 6 cylinder Massey Harris, International from England, and a Case. The idea of another Case was my backup plan. There was an identical year Case to mine, and I figured it would be a fantastic parts tractor. One of the photos of the many machines was of a Fordson. At first glance I guessed that it would be of similar power as the 8N's and the like (I'm quite a rookie when it comes to farm machines still). When I looked into the power, features, and feedback from other Fordson owners, I put it on my list of 'to watch' tractors. I drove 8 hours to the auction with our car, as our truck had hit a moose two weeks earlier, and was still out of commission. Whatever happened that day, I wouldn't be bringing anything home with me. My father-in-law was working as a guide for a local hunting lodge, and I got to stay overnight there before the big day. The hunters were up very early, so I decided to leave at the same time to get a sneak preview of what was up for grabs. I was the first customer to arrive, and I got to slowly and quietly walk up and down the rows of tractors while looking at the condition and potential problems. I was one of the only bidders there that got to see how easily some of them started, and hear them run once they warmed up. Most everything needed to be towed to pop the clutch, and ether sprayed into the air intake pipe. I watched this fellow walk up to the only Fordson at the auction, in this sea of green and gold, stick his finger in the starter solenoid, and fired that machine up as easy as pie. I don't know much about diesels yet, but even I could tell it sounded good and strong. Before many people showed up all the machines had been shut down again, and at the top of my bidding list was this Fordson Major. It was 5th in line to be bid on in the running tractors line. I impatiently waited. I began to chat with other browsers, to share information on different machines, and maybe ask around for local shipping companies. The more people I talked to, the less I heard anything about the Fordson and Case. There were some that eyed the Massey Harris collection, others inspected the cub, ponies, and 8N's. Others only inspected tractors with bucket loaders. And then there were the JD collectors. As there were many 2 cylinders up for grabs, license plates in the parking area showed Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota, and even one Nebraska plate. I thought there were enough B's, A's, D's, M's, an H, AR, 40, 720, 2110, and more to keep them all busy. The Fordson was ignored. I spoke with the estate manager, and was told that the Fordson was a more recent purchase by his late friend, and that the sleeves had just been replaced. Hmmm. It seemed that bidders were mostly looking for driveway snowplows, and smallish hobby machines. I also noticed most of those tractors were at the end of the row of running tractors. That Fordson was one of the first in line. Auction time. Box lots and trinkets were sold off, and then the auction truck moved round to the row of tractors. The crowds huddled in, perhaps 250-300. I found it a bit exciting, and I think most present would agree, for here was the an extensive collection of machines that this fellow had collected, and today they would a new chapter in their lives. The first pair of JD B's both fetched under 3000, but even that was above my small budget. A pair of D's both sold just over 3k. The auctioneer moved down the line, and almost in a mocking voice said, 'And what've we got here? A FORDSON!' There were some chuckles, and then the usual talk about the good condition, tires, etc., but all of it sounded like this was a bump in the road, an annoyance that the auctioneer had to get through before moving on to some more Deeres. Like the previous tractors, he started the bidding high, very high. He started the Deeres at 4000, and then had to drop down to 500 before anyone jumped in. He started off the Fordson at 3000, but the bidding began at 500 again. After 1000, there was only one other person bidding, and that's when the auctioneer tried to bolster the interest by mentioning the recent engine work done. I had set a budget of 1800, and I figured the Fordson might be the best value for my money, and hoped all would stay quiet. No one requested to hear the previous Deeres fire up, and almost no one heard the Fordson start and run. I was winning the bid at 1500, and the bids were jumping in 250 increments. One more bid would put me out of our budget. But the auctioneer waited a long time, and finally said he would extend a 1600 offer to the other bidder, if that would help. I wanted to yell out, 'You never did that for anyone else yet, so shut up!' I was eating an apple voraciously to keep quiet and busy, and not appear nervous. The other bidder shook his head, and at long last, I was given the winning bid. I was so relieved, and yet a moment later I was asking myself if I made the right decision! Why did so few bid? Driving through the countryside in this area, I noticed several Ford tractors - this seemed to be Ford country, but there was no demand for this machine. I didn't have an answer. The next machine was another Deere, and someone asked to hear it start. Most every tractor after that, a request was put in to hear it start and run. Most of the winning bids were in the high 3k's, and much higher. A Massey Harris 33 diesel fetched 6800! I figured that not starting the Fordson was a good a reason as any for the low bidding on my tractor. As the bidding continued, I noticed that except for the small Case and a small Allis, everything had a higher winning bid than my Fordson. As more and more of the smaller snowplow tractors sold off, I noticed that the winning bids grew higher and higher. As an example, the second last in line was an International B275 diesel with bucket loader, and no hydraulic cylinders. It was a rough, nasty looking thing that I thought would be a last desperate attempt for me to win some moderate power if I didn't win any other bid. I guessed the winning bid would be around 2000. It wasn't started for people to hear, and the winning bid was 3900. Wow. The last running machine was a JD 3010 with bucket loader. It was the biggest machine there, in power and size. It was a great value at 3600, but I don't think many people wanted to haul such weight too far. A local guy just down the road was the winner. As I began asking around for local trucking companies, everyone I chatted with asked what I won, and what I paid. Most didn't even pay attention to the bidding on the Fordson, and agreed that I got the one of the best values there that day. The Fordson Major is now safely parked at our property. I have since learned about a few minor quirks in it, but overall I'm thrilled about running this machine next summer. Auctions have the potential of really driving up the price, but if you do your homework, ask around on this great forum, show up nice and early, and form your strategy for the day, it's possible to find a true diamond in the rough. Course, if that Fordson blows up next summer in the middle of that hay field, you can be sure I'll write a little note back with the title, 'Eating Crow'. Thanks for reading.
Jason Napper, ON, entered 2004-11-01
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